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It Ain’t Like It Used To Be: Part One

From the “How NOT to do it!” Department:

When I was young, it was a lot easier to get into running heavy equipment. On-the-job training was the usual way to learn, and even if you had a certificate, no one ever asked for it. As a result, there were “opportunities”, even if you had never seen the machine before!

My “opportunity” came when I was looking for a job in the Canadian North as a welder. My business had just gone under, and I was desperate for work. I found myself in Edmonton, Alberta…, in February. It wasn’t a great time to be looking for work – partly because the economy was bad, and partly because I was freezing my tail off as I slogged around to the various hiring halls.

After two very long weeks of searching, no one held out no promise for a welding job, but one personnel guy asked me if I’d ever ran a forklift. Of course, I said, “Oh yeah.” He said, “Well, you’d better have, because you’re going to be loading planes, and if you hit one of them, we’re both going to be looking for work!” I nodded wisely to show that I knew exactly what he was talking about.

Now…, I didn’t lie! He didn’t ask me if I knew how to run a forklift, and he never asked if I ever been trained – he only asked if I had ever run one.

I had…, on a sawmill job years earlier, when I needed a piece of plate steel for a conveyor I was welding up. The forklift was idling in the yard, forks in the air, and a perfect piece of plate was directly ahead of it about two hundred feet. The operator was no where to be found, so I jumped on board. After a few minutes of jamming gears and pulling levers, I got it to move. Did I mention that is not the way to learn?

I drove straight ahead, dropped the forks to the ground, and man-handled the steel onto them. For some reason, the forks wouldn’t go back up (??), so I found a chunk of rope, tied the steel to the frame, and dragged it back to my project.

Bad idea – I was written up by two unions: labour for moving a piece of lumber that was in my way, and operator’s for.., well, you know.

However, in that February morning in Edmonton, it allowed me to truthfully answer that man’s question, “Have you ever run a forklift?” I got the job, and two days later found myself on the shores of Great Bear Lake in the Northwest Territories, where it was REALLY cold! And where my lack of equipment training got me into even bigger trouble.

More on how not to learn to run heavy equipment later…,

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